Blog Post

Insight: Saratoga Springs — the belly button of Utah

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in the Deseret News

This week, the CEO of a large company headquartered in downtown Salt Lake City described the need to offer services and invest in infrastructure in Utah County. As he made his point, he looked across the table at me and asked if there was a single measure that captured the shift of Utah’s population southward.

Well, actually there is. It’s a concept known as the mean center of population. The Census Bureau defines it as the point where an imaginary, weightless, rigid and flat surface would balance if every person weighed the same. Think of it as the population center of Utah.

True to the CEO’s instincts, Utah’s population center is not only shifting south, it’s been doing so for 40 years. The mean population center or “belly button” of Utah today is in Saratoga Springs, just west of Utah Lake in Utah County.

You can track the movement of Utah’s population center in each decennial census. It tells a story of population drift in the Beehive State.

In 1950, Utah’s population center was in what is now the Draper portion of Utah County near Suncrest Drive. By 1960, largely because of Davis County’s growth as a bedroom community to Salt Lake City, Utah’s population center shifted north to Sandy, residing roughly in the current location of Hidden Valley Country Club. Ten years later, Utah’s population center shifted north again, this time landing just north of Dimple Dell Regional Park.

Then, after 1970, the relentless shift south, and eventually southwest, started to happen. This can be explained, in part, by the rapid population growth in the southwest quadrant of Salt Lake County, Utah County and further south in Washington County.